Thursday, April 24, 2008


The Gnu Manifesto seems preoccupied with the need to do this stuff legally, which is interesting and honorable and all that, but to the extent that programmers, when they “must choose between friendship and obeying the law … many decide that friendship is more important. But those who believe in law often do not feel at ease with either choice.” The extent of my experience with programming communities, as well as those that observe this “golden rule” aspect of the obligation to share, I am aware of a massively only-barely underground community of people committed to doing whatever it takes (breaking the law, etc.) to share. Software, music, movies, etc. This gets interesting, though, when these forums eventually become places in which presumably more advanced programmers exploit the system in order to distribute malicious viruses under the guise of the generous sharing of otherwise unobtainably expensive software. This seems to be a recoiling against the bandwagon effect of those outside the ring of programmers and hackers taking advantage of their efforts – reaping what others sow. Stallman seems to have no qualms with the surface level users benefiting from his efforts, but then again, he doesn’t have as much to lose by doing so – while operating within the realm of legality he doesn’t risk prison sentences and exorbitant fines. Those hackers and crackers of commercial software are in a much more dangerous position when they chose to share, and they do not feel willing to be in that position for the sake of people who do nothing in return. In a sense, in lieu of the law amongst networks of law-breaking users, free-market economy crops up in that, while not charging money, the master hackers provide the commodities, and expect other people’s efforts to allow them the use of other programs – in effect, an unofficial barter system. And viruses are the vigilante police system.

(Also, this notion of good system software becoming “free, just like air” enters the user into this technological realm, this virtual reality. System software is essential and organic to this alternate world, and noone can not breathe. But I don't know if I'm going anywhere with this.)


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